by Pam East
Join guest presenter Pam East November 22-24 and learn to create colorful copper jewelry. No supplies or experience needed! Visit our Event Calendar for activity details.
Art has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Trying out different media, going to galleries, studying it in school – art has never lost its enchantment for me. It takes me to magical places you can’t find any other way. It brings beauty and respite into what is often a harsh and colorless world.
My own artistic journey began when I was a young child; I’d save up my allowance to buy sketch pads and colored pencils or pastels. I loved the idea of putting color on paper and making something beautiful. But it didn’t work out that way. It turned out I didn’t have “talent.” My older sister did, and comparing myself to her held me back from trying for a long time. It wasn’t until I took a photography class in college that I realized I didn’t have to be able to draw well in order to pursue the arts.
Over the next decade or so I worked in an office, but at home, I had my crafts. There was never a time I wasn’t trying out new things: needlework, rubber stamping, airbrushing, stenciling, sewing. There was always something going on in my craft room. It was my safe space, my haven.
Things finally came together for me in 1997 when I was working on a project and needed pretty beads with two-millimeter holes in them. That’s a big hole and generally not commercially available. A woman in the bead store showed me a handful of beautiful, colorful enamel beads and said the magic words, “I can show you how to make these.”
After attending her two-hour class, I ran right out and bought a torch and supplies. My poor husband, having no idea what he was getting himself into, suggested I obtain a business license so we could write off some of the expense. As a result, I did my first craft show selling enamel bead jewelry exactly one month later. I made $265 and said, “This is it! This is what I want to do!” I’ve never looked back.
From there, I moved on to working with silver and expanded my enameling repertoire. I took workshops, experimented, and kept learning. That hasn’t changed. I still experiment and take classes today. Metal and enamels have never stopped educating me.
The other half of the equation is teaching. It’s something I started doing very early on, only a couple of years after I began making beads. It’s not just a way to earn a living for me, but a calling. I simply can’t not teach! I get a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction from empowering others on their own artistic journey, from seeing someone who tells me “I’m not creative” or “I’m not talented” find a measure of success and absolutely light up. My students’ triumphs are my triumphs.
There’s a pervasive, mistaken belief that one must have “talent” in order to engage in artistic pursuits. From my own experiences combined with more than 20 years of teaching art to adults, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Art is for everyone, at every level.
Practicing any type of art can be a form of meditation. It doesn’t have to have an end goal or finished product. The activity itself can calm the mind and bring its own joy and contentment. Just the act of applying color to a page or changing the shape of clay can get you out of your own head for a while.
I love encouraging my students to play and explore; to try and fail and to make mistakes and find successes they weren’t expecting. When you let go of the finished product and embrace the process, it’s very freeing. That’s where the magic happens.
About Pam East
Pam East is an artist, writer, and teacher whose work has been featured in Art Jewelry, Metal Clay Artist Magazine, and many other publications. She has released two instructional DVDs and a book and appeared on jewelry making television programs including The Carol Duvall Show. As an invited speaker, she has shared her expertise in classes and lectures worldwide.